Obituary: Stuart Markus, Miami lawyer for 55 years

 
 
Stuart A. Markus
Stuart A. Markus

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

Stuart A. Markus had some big cases. He once sued Bob Dylan, squaring off solo against the folk singer and his army of lawyers.

He also briefly represented Garrett Brock Trapnell, a notorious bank robber who hijacked a TWA flight in 1972.

But mostly, the gregarious attorney liked to represent the little guy, often without accepting a fee. He began practicing law in Miami in 1958, an era when the courthouse shut down during the sweltering summer heat and attorneys didn’t specialize in one area of the law, instead accepting any cases that came their way.

Markus died suddenly Sunday of heart failure. He was 81 and was still practicing after 55 years as a lawyer.

“Stu was the embodiment of the old-school Miami trial attorney. He would try anything, at the drop of a hat. Fearless. Not flashy. Toiled in relative anonymity, and liked it that way,” said Miami lawyer Paul A. Calli, who worked alongside Markus.

Said Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch, a longtime friend: “He was like the last Atticus Finch,” the lawyer in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. “He was the last small-town lawyer in this big town.”

Markus leaves behind another lasting legal legacy: His son is David O. Markus, a well-known South Florida defense attorney.

In the past decade, Stuart Markus had scaled back his workload, mostly representing clients in family court and in mediation. But even when he fell ill two years ago, Markus emerged from a hospital stay eager to work.

“The last time he was hospitalized, he got 10 new pro bono clients, all of them nurses and staff,” his son said. “He befriended everybody. He loved being around people and helping them with their problems.”

Stuart Markus was born in Chicago in 1932. He spent two years in the U.S. Army before he took a job working in the garment industry -- in a twist, he worked in a store owned by the grandfather of Judge Hirsch. Decades later, the two lawyers became friends after meeting in Miami.

While at DePaul University in Chicago, Markus took a vacation in Miami, falling in love with the sun and the ocean. He transferred to the University of Miami, where he finished his undergraduate degree and stayed for law school.

Back then, Miami was still a sleepy southern town. He accepted all types of cases, including civil, criminal and probate. For 35 years, he owned and worked out of an office on Coral Way and Southwest 22nd Avenue.

Markus rarely turned away clients, even if they couldn’t pay. Once, when a client offered to pay him with an ancient sailboat, Markus accepted.

He and his son tried fixing up the vessel before taking it out on the water. “We had to get towed in because we stalled out in the middle of the bay,” David Markus recalled.

The elder Markus wound up returning the boat. But he represented the client anyway.

His highest profile case was against Dylan. Markus represented a trial witness who felt she was defamed in the lyrics of Dylan’s 1975 song “Hurricane,” about the murder trial of boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter.

Markus would often tell the story of deposing Dylan. When he went to the deposition alone, he found himself facing Dylan and 10 of the singer’s lawyers.

At that moment, he looked at Dylan and the two began laughing at the absurdity of the scene, Markus’ son said. Dylan prevailed in the suit.

Markus is survived by his wife of 42 years, Ilene Markus; his four children: David O. Markus, Joel Markus, Robyn Soldevilla and Pam Kloetzli, and seven grandchildren.

“He was extraordinarily warm and outgoing. He loved his family,” said U.S. District Judge Alan Gold, also a friend. “He would talk incessantly about his son, David, with such great pride.”

A service for Markus will be held Wednesday at Riverside Gordon Memorial Chapels at Mount Nebo, 5900 S.W. 77th Ave., at 2:30 p.m.

A scholarship has been created in to honor Markus. Donations can be made to the Stuart Markus Scholarship, University of Miami School of Law, Office of Law Development & Alumni Relations PO Box 248087 Coral Gables, Florida 33124.

Donations can also be made online at: https://advancement.miami.edu/NetCommunity/SSLPage.aspx?pid=196

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